Taking down The Glass Wall

Brian Clarke's The Glass Wall

A new year brings new challenges. One of our challenges this year is to deinstall the very large Brian Clarke window, The Glass Wall. It is currently located just inside the Museum’s western façade along the ramp to the upper entrance of the magic of glass theatre. It is made up of seven large panels each with 35 individual panes with metal supports suspended from steel cables with specially made hardware. The window is 6.3 m (20 ½ ft) tall and 22.4 m (73 ½ ft) long and hangs at the second story level. This is going to be a BIG project!

Brian Clarke's The Glass Wall with the GlassMarket Cafe below.

This spring we are renovating the GlassMarket Café, which sits in the space directly below the window. While the renovations occur (the Café reopens in April) the location is unsafe for the window. Deinstalling the window will also allow us to clean it and repair the loose cames (the aluminum strips around each glass pane) found on some of the panes.  The size and location of the window make any kind of treatment in situ almost impossible. The window badly needs to be cleaned since neither it nor the interior of the building’s windows have been cleaned since it was installed in 2000.

A loose came on the bottom of a pane.

As you can imagine, deinstalling such a huge object is not a process that is undertaken lightly. Dismantling the window requires a lot of planning and preparation. Over the last few months we’ve been having meetings with everyone involved to do just that. This includes the Museum’s conservators, preparators, registrars, and operations managers, as well as an outside contractor who will provide scaffolding and remove the hardware for hanging the window.

The Glass Wall. At the top of the ramp there is about a 2 foot gap between the window and the ramp.

We also had to think about how to store the 245 panes of glass while the window is off display. We had special crates made with slots for the panes which will make transporting and housing the glass safe and compact. The window will be dismantled and taken to our warehouse where we will set up a special area to clean the glass and do any necessary repairs.

Specially made crates with slots to hold individual panes.

The Glass Wall. At the bottom of the ramp there is only a very small gap between the window and the ramp.

After the scaffolding has been put up, the window will be carefully removed, pane by pane, by our preparators. Any loose cames they come across will be temporarily secured with tape. Once all the glass has been safely packed and taken away, the support system can be taken down by our operations team and the outside contractors.

The whole process starts this week!

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Astrid van Giffen is the Museum's associate conservator. In 2007, she completed the conservation training program of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with a specialization in glass and ceramics. Her training included internships at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, and The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. Since completing the ICN program, she’s worked as a private conservator in Oregon and was the Samuel H. Kress Fellow in Objects Conservation at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies of the Harvard Art Museum (2008-2009). She also holds a BA (2001) in Classical Studies from Willamette University.